Keeping unwanted prescription drugs from being misused or improperly discarded is the aim of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Take-Back Day, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 29. The event, being held nationwide, including several communities throughout the Brazos River basin, helps to reduce contamination of water supplies by ensuring that drugs are not flushed down toilets. Water treatment plants are not designed to eliminate these drugs, so improper disposal can taint drinking water.
Protecting the water supply from these drugs is an important goal. “Traces of pharmaceuticals … have been reported in the water cycle, including surface waters, wastewater, groundwater and, to a lesser extent, drinking water,” according to a report by the World Health Organization.
While the WHO says it is unlikely that the pharmaceuticals at trace levels would cause major problems, it notes that this is still a concern that should be addressed – and reduced.
The organization says inappropriate disposal of the drugs by flushing them down the toilet, pouring them down the sink or throwing them into trash cans is a common practice that might be the main reason for the detection of these drugs in water treatment plants, surface water and landfills.
Usually, the National Take Back Day is scheduled twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. However, some communities may have programs at other times of the year in which unwanted pharmaceuticals are collected. You can check the website of your city or county to see what events may be scheduled in your area.
Those attending the event should take unused prescription drugs, over the counter drugs or pet medications which they no longer need. Items such as needles, syringes, thermometers, medical devices, IV bags and personal care products are usually not accepted at these events.
The most recent National Take Back Day, which took place Oct. 22, 2016, resulted in 731,269 pounds of medications from throughout the United States being turned in to the DEA at nearly 5,200 collection sites. According to the DEA, 7.1 million tons of drugs have been turned in since the event began in 2010.
The DEA notes that of the estimated 6.4 million Americans who abused prescription drugs in 2015 – most of whom took prescription painkillers illegally – most obtained the drugs from friends or family. National Take Back Day focuses on reducing this source of drugs by giving people a convenient location to get rid of prescription medications they no longer need.
To find a collection site near you, visit here.